Max Rhoads Park renamed to honor Moneta Sleet Jr.

April 20, 2022 | 12:11 am

Updated April 19, 2022 | 9:48 pm

Graphic by Owensboro Times

Owensboro City Commissioners on Tuesday approved the renaming of Max Rhoads Park to Moneta Sleet Jr. Park.

The name change was suggested by the Northwest Neighborhood Alliance, who wanted to honor Sleet as the first Black person to win a Pulitzer Prize in Journalism; he was also one of the first Black people to win a Pulitizer Prize in any category.

The park was originally named in honor of the late Max Rhoads, a WWII and Korean War veteran as well as former City Manager, who died in 2008.

Rafe Buckner, Chair of the Northwest Alliance, said he approached the living members of the Rhoads’ family about their perspective on the name change. After talking with Rhoads’ grandson — who was supportive — the two agreed to suggest that some sort of marker be put on the property noting its previous name.

Sleet was born in Owensboro in 1926 and lived in the area the park surrounds at 7th and Walnut streets. Sleet went on to obtain a master’s degree in journalism from New York University.

Eventually, through a close relationship with Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., Sleet photographed King’s work during the movement in the 1960s and was one of the only photojournalists allowed at King’s funeral.

At the funeral, Sleet took a photo of Coretta Scott King with her daughter — an image that earned Sleet a Pulitzer Prize for Best Feature Photo, making Sleet the first Black winner of a Pulitzer Prize in journalism.

In a March meeting, the Owensboro Parks & Recreation board agreed to make the recommendation to the City Commission.

At that Parks & Recreation meeting, Commissioner Mark Castlen attended and supported the name change.

“It’s only fitting that we go ahead and name the park after him as a way to raise awareness for his accomplishments,” Castlen said at the March meeting.

April 20, 2022 | 12:11 am

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